Many of the 1960s-era houses in northwest Oklahoma City's Rollingwood neighborhood were designed in the “storybook ranch” or “rustic ranch” style that had gained popularity in California and was spreading to Oklahoma at the time.
Ron Frantz, associate professor in the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture, grew up in a storybook ranch house in Rollingwood, and has turned his admiration for midcentury design styles into a career specialization.
Frantz said the emergence of so-called “Garden View” designs reflected key socio-economic changes taking place as the post-World War II building boom spun families farther and farther from traditional city centers to the suburbs.
As air conditioning became the norm in private homes, people no longer needed their front porches “for either comfort or for social needs,” Frantz said.
Frantz also pointed out that as television began to replace “neighborly conversations,” families became “more private” — eschewing formal living rooms and front parlors for carpeted family rooms arranged to feature the TV “and maybe the wet bar” — and that home design responded to these new proclivities.
Frantz spoke recently at the 25th annual Oklahoma Statewide Preservation Conference in Perry, discussing “Twentieth Century Living Spaces.” He cited a 1972 article by syndicated columnist Hiawatha T. Estes, who he called “a prolific promoter of ranch-style house plans.”
Estes, a Tishomingo native who in 1948 founded the Nationwide House Plan Book Co., syndicated his column from 1955 to 1986. In the article, Estes identified a trend: Americans were gravitating toward “Garden View” homes that shifted the more important rooms to the back of the house “to enjoy a garden view.”
Notice that “it didn't say ‘sit in the garden,' ” Frantz said. Ranch-style designs became popular because by the 1960s, “everyone wanted to sit inside, with the air conditioning and the television.”